WASHINGTON (AP) — Every point matters more than ever to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, who are part of a logjam in the Eastern Conference — and on the outside of the playoff race, looking in, at the moment.
So blowing two-goal leads, as the Capitals tend to do, and losing key players such as center Nicklas Backstrom to injury are not exactly what they want. All of those bad things happened to the Capitals in a 5-4 shootout loss Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, who came back after Ovechkin scored two early power-play goals.
"Obviously, you miss 'Backy,' but every team has guys that go out," said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who would only say that Backstrom has an upper-body injury. "You've got 19 other guys that have got to do the job. We've got plenty of guys that can do the job."
Also "being evaluated," as Oates put it, after the game was defenseman Jack Hillen, who was involved in a scary moment halfway through overtime, colliding with Ovechkin at center ice. Hillen's helmet slammed into Ovechkin's chest, and the game was put on hold for a bit. Ovechkin got the wind knocked out of him and took a knee, but returned to the game. Hillen got the worst of the impact and remained face-down on the ice while a trainer checked on him.
Washington is ninth in the East, one spot out of the playoffs based on tiebreakers, even though it is one of four teams with 80 points, alongside No. 7 Columbus, No. 8 Detroit and No. 10 Toronto. The Capitals have nine games left, starting Saturday at home against Boston.
So among the Capitals, there was a mix of relief at the idea of picking up one point against Los Angeles — and disappointment at failing to get two after leading 2-0 thanks to Ovechkin before the game was 7½ minutes old, and then being ahead 3-1 entering the third period.
"There's no excuse. We have to find a way to win when we are up two goals," Washington forward Marcus Johansson said. "It hurts a lot. You never know when it comes down to it — in or out (of the playoffs) by one point."
Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter scored in the shootout for the Kings, and goalie Jonathan Quick caught Eric Fehr's attempt after rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov whiffed on Washington's opening shot.
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